Shrimp sector stakeholders and industry leaders have appealed to the government of Bangladesh to help the shrimp industry as it is sliding into a deep crisis due to the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic and the devastation caused by the recent super cyclone Amphan, says a joint statement received on Tuesday.
Shrimp culture is practised on 2,58,681 hectares of land in the country, mostly in the south-western part of Bangladesh. During the last three months of the FY 2019-2020, the sector came under severe strain due to the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic and the recent super cyclone Amphan, the statement said.
In the context of serious problems being faced by the shrimp sector due to these two unexpected problems, the members of Shrimp Hatchery Association of Bangladesh (SHAB), Bangladesh Shrimp and Fish Foundation (BSFF) and Bangladesh Aqua Products Companies Association (BAPCA) reviewed the situation arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic and cyclone Amphan. The review has highlighted the enormity of the problems being faced by the sector.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a disastrous impact on the shrimp sector on several fronts. During the pandemic-caused crises, prolonged lockdown, restricted movement and social distancing have resulted in dislocations and severe workforce shortage both in the hatcheries and in the farms. This has resulted in a decrease in production of PLs and their actual field level distribution and procurement by farmers.
The loan disbursement from banks has also decreased significantly affecting the hatcheries and shrimp farmers. The shrimp sector in Bangladesh is critically dependent on imported feed and other inputs which have also been disrupted. As a result, input supply has become uncertain and their prices have gone up. The crisis has adversely impacted the shrimp hatcheries and farms. The losses incurred by both hatcheries and the farmers have been of a great magnitude and they are finding it difficult to remain financially viable.
The joint statement was signed by Asheq Ullah Rafaiq M.P., President, SHAB, Syed Mahmudul Huq, Chairman, BSFF and Mohammed Tarique Sarker, President, BAPCA, on behalf of the stakeholders in the sector. Attention of the government has been drawn to the fact that the impact of cyclone Amphan in the south western part of Bangladesh has further aggravated the problems of the shrimp sector equally affecting the hatcheries and the grow-outs.
During the cyclone Amphan the vast expanse of water bodies in the South Western part of Bangladesh were flooded, important infrastructure destroyed, farm establishments dismantled. Enclosures and ponds prepared for the next production cycle were also badly damaged.
The shrimp farmers in the affected areas have been rendered seriously unable to freshly prepare their enclosures and ponds, procure PLs and other inputs as they have very little financial resources of their own to overcome the problems in hand. Moreover, 90 per cent of the shrimp farmers who are small, have no access to institutional finance, especially loans from banks.
The BSFF and the members of SHAB and BAPCA, however, expressed their appreciation of a series of initiatives taken by the government to mitigate the consequences of Covid-19 pandemic and cyclone Amphan. They specially commended the compensation packages announced by the government to revive economic activities in all important sectors in the economy and the concessional loan disbursement as well as financial packages for badly affected target groups.
Immediate and urgent assistance packages would be helpful now that the farmers at the grow-out level are preparing for the next production cycle for the black tiger shrimp which accounts for more than 90 per cent of the export of the fisheries products of Bangladesh.
They stressed the fact that one of the concrete measures, which the government may take, is expeditious disbursement of concessional agricultural credit for shrimp sector stakeholders.
They especially mentioned about developing an assistance package for the small shrimp farmers who do not have any access to any formal institutional finance; but account for more than 90 per cent of the country's shrimp production and exports.
In order for the sector to recover from the present crisis, they spelt out following concrete support measures:
In order to help the affected shrimp farmers to rehabilitate their ponds and enclosures and for urgent procurement of PLs and other inputs needed for the shrimp production in the next production cycle, financial assistance should be extended to the shrimp farmers and for this purpose the government may allocate adequate resources.
Since the imported inputs play a major role in the shrimp production, as an urgent measure to help the shrimp farmers procure imported inputs at affordable prices the import duty on imported feed and other necessary inputs used in the sector may be exempted, at least for the next two years.
The government may through consultation and coordination with relevant private sector stakeholders may fix the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) of the imported inputs so that the benefits of the duty exemption can be reaped by actual users in the hatcheries and farms. The government may consider forming a Monitoring Committee headed by the Senior Upazilla Fisheries Officer (SUFO) and including representation from target beneficiaries to ensure the enforcement of the MRPs fixed by the government on duty-exempted imported inputs so that the benefits of the duty exemption can be passed on to the target groups.
To help facilitate import of shrimp feed and avoid administrative problems, NOC issued by the Department of Fisheries should be given the highest priority and other avoidable steps may be dispensed with.
During the cyclone Amphan serious damages were caused to protection embankments, circulatory canals, enclosures and ponds and farm level relevant infrastructure and establishments in the South Western part of Bangladesh. The government may urgently assess the damages caused by cyclone Amphan in the shrimp production zones and initiate urgent rehabilitation work.